Faithful work … loving deeds … enduring hope. When I read the encouragement poured out in 1 Thessalonians, I imagine a group of believers in life’s sweet spot where it’s easy to be faithful and loving. Understand: they weren’t in a sweet spot, yet a sweetness poured out from them–their faith. They were known by it, and God was known by it.
2 We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. 3 As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.
4 We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people. 5 For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true. And you know of our concern for you from the way we lived when we were with you. 6 So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord. 7 As a result, you have become an example to all the believers in Greece—throughout both Macedonia and Achaia.
8 And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it, 9 for they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God. 10 And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-10, NLT, emphasis added)
In a three year drought, faith ignited a fire. Unwavering, confident, expectant faith from knowing God.
30 Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel, 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons. 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood.
Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.”
34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench.
36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”
38 Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!” (1 Kings 18:30-39, NLT)
(And rains came, ending the drought. Imagine the elation!)
Land is set aside for the tribes of Israel, and I read this piece:
11 This area is set aside for the ordained priests, the descendants of Zadok who served me faithfully and did not go astray with the people of Israel and the rest of the Levites. 12 It will be their special portion when the land is distributed, the most sacred land of all. (Ezekiel 48:11-12, NLT, emphasis added)
These are stories of man’s faith in a faithful God, not in life’s sweet spot, but in drought, in severe suffering, in focused and enduring service. It’s not just a believing faith, but a persistent, confident, expectant, actionable, demonstrable faith.
Lord Jesus, when I am burdened and bear a weight that’s heavy, what pours out of me? A three year drought … I am humbled, when I know a poor night’s sleep and a taunting stress are enough to make me snap. These scriptures remind me to keep a sure and eternal focus.
5 You placed the world on its foundation
so it would never be moved. (Psalm 104:5, NLT)
Let all that I am praise you.